Bulls win first two games of series with Connecticut, but fail to win series finale.
For the third straight series, the baseball team couldn’t put everything together and earn its first sweep in conference play.USF (22-9, 6-3) outscored Connecticut 19-1 in the first two games of the series, but allowed six runs on nine hits in a loss during the finale Sunday.
“We were satisfied with winning two out of three. That’s one thing we have to change within the program,” coach Lelo Prado said. “We can’t accept mediocrity and for this program to be where it needs to be, we have to improve on that.”
Sunday marked the third straight series in which the Bulls won two out of three contests. The closing game of the series against the Huskies was similar to the losses USF suffered against other Big East opponents in Notre Dame and Pittsburgh earlier in the season.
“We should have swept (Connecticut) … in all reality we could have swept all three series,” shortstop Walter Diaz said. “I think it’s just a matter of us coming out ready to play. When we come out ready I don’t think there is anyone that can beat us.”
Connecticut (11-12, 3-3) took its first lead of the series Sunday on a bases-loaded walk in the first inning and then tacked on four more runs in the fourth. Yuri Higgins (4-2) allowed six runs on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings.
Although Higgins struggled in the fourth, Prado felt the Bulls’ lapses on defense and at the plate cost them the sweep.
“We had great pitching today. Yuri pitched really well, we just didn’t play good defense behind him.” Prado said. “We didn’t execute offensively. But we’ve got to do a better job of showing up all three days.”Diaz agrees.
“I think I could have played better, I made some mistakes out in the field,” Diaz said. “There’s been some times when we don’t come out ready and (opponents) make a game out of it and we come out with a loss.”
Saturday, pitcher Chris Delaney (6-0) allowed only five hits in seven innings and Shawn Sanford earned his seventh save as he preserved the shutout with two scoreless innings, giving the Bulls a 3-0 victory.
USF has thrown three shutouts this season.Although Diaz felt he struggled in the field, his performance at the plate helped lead USF to two victories in Connecticut.
The junior singled to extend his hit streak to 13 games. During that span, Diaz has hit 23-for-50 with three doubles, a home run, 16 runs scored and 10 RBI. His .402 batting average, 11 doubles, 51 hits and 40 runs scored all lead the team.
In the series opener, the Bulls registered a season-high 20 hits as center fielder Joey Angelberger, second baseman Dexter Butler and left fielder Ryan Soares all had three hits.
“I don’t ever think you can hit too much; we want to get all of the runs we can get,” Diaz said. “But we could have used some of those hits (Sunday).”
The Bulls are just one win away from matching last season’s total, but Prado feels USF can’t draw any inspiration from last season.
“We can’t look at what we did a year ago and feel like we’ve improved.” Prado said. “If we set the bar that low, then we’ll remain mediocre. I’m only concerned about this year and that our team plays to their potential. If this team doesn’t want to improve from last year, then they brought in the wrong coach.”